OPINION — 2 ways of looking at Peachtree City’s golf cart paths

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And all the nuances in-between — crown jewel of Georgia’s first, best planned city and a continuing nuisance of boombox-loud music and dangerously speeding teens and geezers. Or in Forrest Gump’s memorable ending: “I think maybe it’s both — maybe it’s both happening at the same time.”

So let’s say you buy this nice house with a sweet view of Lake Peachtree next to a paved golf cart path. Pretty soon you discover that the path brings some unwanted stuff close to your nice house. So you complain to the police chief and the city manager and you get tired of that so-called multi-purpose path and its annoyances, especially since everybody you’ve complained to just shrug their shoulders and don’t fix your problem.

Here’s where John Q. Citizen is out of options, except to move. But suppose you are not just John Q. Citizen.

Suppose one of the homeowners has just been elected to the City Council. Here’s where things begin to run off the trails … uh, rails.

You come up with the notion that what us old-timers still call the bike trail is no more than a city easement on your property, not really public property at all. You petition the city council to abandon that public easement so the offending cart path can just be closed off to the noxious public. Voilà, problem would be solved. Meanwhile, signs go up in your neighborhood: “Save our paths.”

And further suppose that the homeowner and new City Council member contacts the soon-to-be-retired city manager to lobby for an unusual addition to the cart path — a speed bump. And not just one but several, as well as instructions to the city about where those speed bumps should be placed in relation to the homeowners’ property. And, so it gets done — the most speed bumps per hundred yards in Peachtree City. And all at city taxpayers’ expense.

And to put fudge on the sundae, the City Council holds a closed-to-the-public executive session July 12 to talk about “property acquisition” — that section of cart path easement that the lakefront homeowners seek to close to the public.

Well, gosh. Now you have a looming legal mess that apparently nobody from the mayor on down foresaw.

Here’s the latest problem spelled out: The Georgia Open Meetings law allows the council to close the meeting to talk about “property acquisition.” But the property owner was an elected official involved in that closed meeting. The meeting resulted in the council expressing “no interest” in the deal. But I contend the damage to the public’s right to know had already occurred.

At a minimum, the homeowner/council member should have recused herself physically from all discussion of the cart path issue, up to and including her physical presence at that closed meeting.

Council member Gretchen Caola, who lives at the property under discussion, was physically present during a closed meeting at which property acquisition was discussed and — in effect — decided upon, even if the council majority was “not interested.”

In this matter, the council seems to have lost its perspectives on the law and the city ethics code.

This was not some random piece of property — it belonged to one of the five council members, who sat in on the closed-to-the-public meeting to decide on the fate of the homeowners’ property.

Why did not somebody raise a big red flag and say, “Wait a minute! We can’t do this! This is wrong!”

Maybe the public should call a meeting and invite the city council members to it. The meeting agenda would have one topic: “Get your heads out of your dark places and follow the law and observe common sense ethics.”

OK, so the council in its collective, no-public meeting practice decided and announced almost as an after-thought by the mayor: “There will be no more cart path speed bumps installed.”

Well, just a minute. When did it get decided — in a public meeting — that there should be speed bumps anywhere on the cart path system?

How about this suggestion: Before you screw around with the crown jewel of Peachtree City, how about you elected special people involve somebody more than “an advisory committee” with an agenda.

Here’s unsolicited advice: Keep the cart path paved and in good repair. For any other bright ideas, put them on the public meeting agenda and cut off that insulting timer.

[An aside, the first house I bought in Peachtree City in 1978 came with a cart path easement — an entrance to the cart path system for the entire subdivision. I could not then and cannot now be more grateful for such a treasured amenity that my family with four kids enjoyed for years. A busy cart path runs past my back yard today. And when I say “runs,” I write accurately. I don’t want no stinkin’ speed bumps behind my house.]

[Cal Beverly has been editor and publisher of The Citizen since 1993.]

58 COMMENTS

  1. Near the end of May after our morning run, a man in a golf cart approached us as asked us what we thought of the new speed bumps. At the time there were only 2 or 3 new bumps installed and they originally seemed to be at strategic locations where a downhill met a curve. He asked if they impeded our run. My response was they didn’t bother us during our run and that maybe it would slow down a couple of the super fast bicyclists that we routinely encounter. He then pulled out his phone and showed us he had painstakingly complied all of the pedestrian/cart accidents on the city paths for the last three years, of course the lake area had the highest incidents but then it is probably the most used path in the city. He told us he lived in the blue house by the lake next to the cart path. We assumed he was the reason the speed bumps were installed and even then his conversation to us seemed odd, like he was seeking our approval. During the next few weeks more bumps were all along the lake cart path, near his house and on the path next to his house. His original story to us was quite one sided and there was a bit more that he didn’t want us to know. It seems they are the neighbors you don’t want to have living next door!

  2. I’m new in town. Something needs to be done about speeding teenagers on carts coming at you around blind curves with five and sometime six passengers. Why is speed bumps an issue and this is not? Someone is going to get hurt bad one of these days.

  3. Those of us who have used the cart paths any length of time know what a safety problem it can be, especially once school lets out. I have mixed opinions about speedbumps. They’re a pain, literally, but so is the problem they’re designed to address. I just wish all could drive responsibly, but human nature being what it is, that is an unrealistic wish. I doubt police resources allow more presence on the pathways. And speedbumps only address the short distance it takes to slow down then speed back up. And they can be a danger to bicyclists. Or, as I saw yesterday, a high-speed cyclist swerving around a speedbump to maintain their high speed can be a danger as much as speeding golf carts. No good solutions, but I disagree with simply adding more speedbumps. As often happens, most of us are being inconvenienced due to the actions of a few.

    Separately, as for those who bought a home next to a path, you did know the path was there before you bought the home, didn’t you?

  4. In the “PTC Politics” Facebook page, someone posted a letter Joe Coala(a self described patient man) has penned to the City Council and City Attorney. A poster in response has posted pictures of his home and the golf cart path from several years ago(pre Joe) and now. Joe has moved his mailbox to right beside the path, taken out a huge tree that was a buffer between his home and the path, repaved his driveway, moving(encroaching) it right beside the golf cart, path, and put up a shed right beside the path. I wish Cal had added all of this info to his report.

  5. Thank you for this piece, Cal.

    Homeowner87, you are not wrong.

    GAguy, The Fred is a solid idea.

    In case you missed it:

    Be sure to check out the Jan 3rd Opinion Letter thread entitled: “Peachtree City Council should implement cart path safety recommendations”.

    As a result of the July 12th closed-to-the-public executive session, the City Council actually decided that “There will be no more cart path speed bumps installed.”?? What about the existing speed bumps??

    Will the City Council remove existing speed bumps that were installed under the guise of safety? These do not deter speeding – teenagers and other lead-foots do not care about your cart’s shocks or your yards, they will simply jump them or go around them.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us have to endure the “most-speed-bumps-per-100-yards” as directed by Councilwoman (Edgewater residents have indicated that Caola is involved in WHERE the speed bumps are being located).

    This week, the path beside said property has become more defined by shovel and the pine straw has been pushed back (it had been obstructing the path and intentionally covering up the open space) – betting there will be a new fence installed or a pavement guardrail poured at taxpayer’s expense sooner than later.

    There is still time to fix this gross overcorrection performed under the guise of safety. Look behind the curtain of this self-interest agenda AND follow the money.

    This week, myself and three others witnessed a terrible fall by an adult female who fell off her bicycle due to the hazardous obstruction of a speed bump that extended from one edge of the path to the other. After dusting off and inspecting her wounds, this poor lady was lucky that she wasn’t impaled by debris/sticks aligning the nature path. We were all so thankful that this distressing occurrence was not much worse.

    If there is no existing speed bump removal in sight (are the chances better than Gretchen resigning?), then the esteemed Multi-Use Path System Advisory Group should do what the July 15th City Council Letter states it will: “… any potential adjustments to speed bumps as deemed necessary.” and create the necessary open space (this should have been a no-brainer) on both ends of existing speed bumps to leave room for walkers, runners, cyclists and the like.

    A temporary solution is not a solution, speed bumps cause carts to slow down for literally 1 foot of a 100 mile path and then speed back up again.

    City Council, the time to course correct is now.

  6. Ok so how do we get involved. This is unbelievable… but we must stop this. First off @Spyglass we are not part of the problem. My husband has severe back issues and this is now a reason we can not enjoy a drive around our lake. I had also read that it was because some visiting child hurt themselves while not wearing protection. So this council needs to be put on notice and Caolas needs removal immediately.
    Yes the tax payers should not pay for the removal, but no matter how that goes we will.

        • Anyone can see these speed bumps, which were added with no true citizen input, had nothing to with safety. It was all about Grethen. And the closed meeting City Council is complicit. If one does not see this wrong, well carry on.

          • I agree it appears our councilperson created an ethical and stewardship foul. I’m not opposed to a recall vote, though I don’t think it is necessary. We are discussing a junior Council Member with six months in office and probably has a few lessons to learn. I think a bit of civility is in order.

        • Doug Tucker, this is not a learning curve /a few lessons to learn situation, and I think you really know this. This is a crossed the line/no going back, needs to be out of office situation.

          • I took a ride down, they sure did build close to that path with that new garage…nice garage..storage shed is even closer.

  7. Council member Gretchen Caola should resign. Public office should not be used for personal agendas. Also, the fact that the rest of the city council let it go by unchecked is a huge red flag. We need people we can trust to protect our city and our rights as citizens.

    • If this is your first indication of a red flag you are not paying attention – and this is comparatively small.

      This council is all in for rapid development, over population density, citizen input suppression, and complete failure to focus on attracting good job development to our city. Ugg. First we foolishly elect a realtor as mayor then a professional liberal politician. We have to be wiser.

  8. Based on the amount of speedbumps, the intent appears to have been to make the trail so uncomfortable that no one would want to take their golf cart down the path anymore. The frequency of bumps is over the top.
    Imagine if this many bumps were place on a road (where teenagers drive cars too).
    This is corrupt and wrong. It’s painful to see the magic of Peachtree City diminished in such a way. I can see someone using this issue as a platform to unseat the councilwoman in the next election.

    • Homeowner87, we actually agree somewhat on this. It is painful to see. Do not agree about the unseat in the next election about Gretchen though. She has crossed the line, and is unfit to serve, for all the reasons Cal reported. She needs to be out now. Hopefully a recall effort will be underway. Maybe that will serve as a wake up call to the rest of the City Council about doing their job the old school way, people doing the right thing.

  9. Thanks Cal for bringing this disappointing abuse of power to light. No doubt the damage is done. The annoying speed bumps are done. Gretchen appears to be an elitist that got her way somewhat, and the city council, with their closed door meeting, were complicit. Hopefully, Gretchen will resign, but elitists usually do not resign or take responsibility. I am very disappointed in Kim for letting this happen. I voted for her. She should have seen this for what it was. “Wait a minute. We cannot do this. This is wrong.”

  10. Well said, Cal. Was aware of Caolas’ shenanigans, but the “most-speed-bumps-per-100-yards” thing is new to me. Is this true? Do the Caolas have the most speed bumps within 100 yards than any property in PTC? And were they placed there at Gretchen’s direction? The next council meeting may need to move to The Fred.

  11. Spyglass says anyone who’s not happy with speed bumps must drive his or her golf cart excessively fast, and you therefore are part of the problem? Hmmmmm… There should not be speed bumps anywhere, they are a bane to safe drivers everywhere.

      • You’re missing the point… Because folks speed doesn’t mean there should be speed bumps (otherwise, there would be speed bumps on the interstate every quarter mile). There needs to be a penalty. I understand that our PD can’t sit there and stop everyone who drives too fast, but the threat of cart confiscation for 3 months along with a large $ fine might help. The speed bumps on McDuff and the road down to Kedron aquatic center should be removed also.

        • Exactly. It’s an enforcement issue. And perhaps large fines for violations should be imposed by ordinance. That might get the attention of the violators and or their parents though I realize it isn’t exclusively young speeders. Everyone shouldn’t be punished for the actions of a few. I’ll give Ms Caola, who’s new to politics, the benefit of the doubt but she did step in it with this self serving attempt to solve a problem.

  12. Fair enough, we did have one closed out of my neighborhood 4-5 years ago..I still miss it. It can happen. Should be obvious as to which neighborhood this happened in. Luckily, there is another way out…at the park. or onto a busy Fishers Luck via the street. No outrage came about. Where was your reporting then?

    IF the speed bumps bother you, you are partly the reason for their existence. No doubt, this sounds fishy around the Council Members house..